If you’ve ever played a Worms game, chances are you know more or less how it works by now. Two or more teams wage war within the confines of a 2D destructible arena, each taking turns to make their move in a strategic battle of wits and firepower. It’s a formula that, despite some missteps here and there, simply works. So when Worms Rumble came along to shake up the formula with faster, real-time gameplay, we were understandably a bit sceptical.
With every major game publisher seemingly desperate to show off their own take on the battle royale genre, Worms is the latest franchise to wave its hand in the air and yell “hey, we'll have some of that!”. Worms Rumble is somewhat of a spin-off of the main Worms series, boasting real-time gameplay in a strictly online multiplayer setting. Its core modes consist of Team Deathmatch, Standard Deathmatch, Last Squad Standing, and Last Worm Standing. The latter two are the game’s mandatory battle royale modes, though the overall player count can only reach a maximum of 32, albeit with cross-platform support.
Out of the available modes at launch, the deathmatch options are significantly more fun than the battle royale modes. Although the latter take place across much larger maps with an abundance of items to discover, the deathmatch modes offer up much more replayability. The game does try to prepare you for this by recommending you reach a certain level before trying out the battle royale modes, otherwise you’re likely to snuff it pretty early in each match.
Controlling the worms themselves feels much quicker and more fluid than past entries. They’ve been given a handy boost in speed, alongside a rolling ability that not only lets you get out of danger quickly, but also grants you extra height and distance when jumping. Aiming is done via the two analogue sticks in typical twin-stick fashion, meaning you can easily manoeuvre your worm to a safe place whilst firing towards your opponents.
Although you’ll start each match with the very basics of weaponry, crates are littered around each stage containing both new weapons and various grenade types. A handful of your favourite classics are here, including the rocket launcher, shotgun, banana, and holy hand grenade. It’s undeniable, however, that certain weapons have lost much of their charm in this entry simply due to the lack of destructible environments. Honestly, what’s the point of the holy hand grenade if it’s not going to cause a gigantic crater to form in the ground?
Aside from this, the selection of weapons is pretty sparse for the most part. It’s clear the game is designed to be a streamlined experience in contrast to the more strategic approach taken with previous entries, but with so many of the more unique weapons and items missing here, the game has, by extension, lost a lot of its own identity.
The levels themselves are reasonably large, with plenty of winding corridors and tight spaces. They’re big enough that you can quite easily retreat to safety if need be, but not so big that you’ll struggle to locate your opponents. Scattered throughout the levels are vents, which are handy for hiding away from the enemy, but can prove tricky to navigate quickly if someone happens to spot you inside, bringing a small sense of risk vs reward to the game.
Not only that, but the game also encourages quick traversal with the inclusion of zip wires and elevators. It’s genuinely quite thrilling when you’re in the thick of it to jump onto a zip wire and zoom across half the map to safety. You can also flip this around, of course, and utilise zip wires to quickly ambush opponents, particularly if you’re carrying the one-two punch of a rocket launcher and a holy hand grenade. Let chaos ensue.
In terms of visual design, however, the levels are simply too busy. There’s so much going on in the background, it’s often tricky to know which platforms are actually reachable, and which ones are just part of the scenery. This is only exacerbated on the Switch’s portable screen, so good luck if you’re planning on playing in handheld mode or on Switch Lite.
Which leads us onto our next issue: an overall lack of content. There are so few levels on offer with Worms Rumble, don’t be surprised to see the same locations multiple times in a row before a different area enters the rotation. It’s exhausting after a while to see the same locales yet again, and with such basic, by-the-numbers gameplay holding it all together, there simply isn’t enough here to keep your attention for very long. We’ve no doubt that Team17 will introduce more maps later down the line, but the game really needed a bit more variety out of the gate.
Outside of the core gameplay, you’re able to customise your worm to your liking, including an offering of various eyes, skin tones, mouths, and clothing. There’s a rather limited selection at the start (including a rather baffling set of Christmas themed items), but as you level up your worm, you gain access to additional item sets. We would’ve liked the game to include an option to save certain customisations so you can flip between them at will, but unfortunately you’re stuck with having to completely revamp your worm every time you want a change.
In terms of matchmaking, the game offers up sessions fairly quickly when opting for either Deathmatch or Team Deathmatch, but it can take an awfully long time if you go for the battle royale themed modes (and if you happen to perish early on, it can naturally feel like wasted time). Not only that, but there were multiple instances where we eventually got into a match only to find a total of 5 or 6 players active out of a possible 32. At launch, the player base feels pretty sparse already, and that’s not good.
Finally, as with any multiplayer focused game, you can expect to find a great deal of DLC packs available for purchase. These appear to be entirely cosmetic, with new skins for your worm, fresh emotes, and custom paint jobs for your weapons. Having said that, with the game dishing out fresh items every time you level up, there’s not a great deal of incentive to purchase the extra content at this time.
Worms Rumble is a reasonably fun game in its own right; the battles feel fast, the weapons pack a decent punch, and the addition of zip wires make traversal a blast. The problem is that in transitioning to a multiplayer-focused battle royale style game, much of what made Worms so iconic in the past is now gone, with far fewer weapons and absolutely no destructible environments. Add to this a rather limited selection of levels, and you’ve got an experience that may well be fun for a short while, but certainly won’t keep you engaged for the long haul.